Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Victorian England. A setting of some of the Doctor's best stories like The Talons of Weng Chiang and Ghost Light. Can this possibly live up to those Who classics?

The story starts off with the body of an old woman being taken over some ghostly creature in the undertakers of Gabriel Sneed, which is effectively realised and quite genuinely spooky. The CGI effects are quite simple, but convey the whispy creatures well. From the outset the tone of the story is given; a Victorian horror story about body possessions.

After the awesome opening titles and best rendition of the opening theme Doctor Who is ever likely to have we go to the Doctor and Rose inside the TARDIS. They're having trouble controlling the machine and it seems to shake around quite violently. This Doctor seems to be having lots of trouble with his time machine; a result of the War perhaps? The TARDIS eventually lands. The Doctor tells her they are in Naples, Christmas 1860, and tells her to dress for the occasion. He points her to a room in the TARDIS where she can find the appropriate attire. From what I've seen of this new TARDIS control room I've seen no other doors that lead to the interiors of the ship, but I suppose I'm nit-picking now. The banter between the Doctor and Rose is exceptional; I'm suddenly realising that I've NEVER enjoyed Doctor Who this much. Of course they are nowhere near Naples in 1860, but that's just another quirk of this near series which made me laugh. The TARDIS landing nowhere near it's destination never seemed funny before.

We meet a lot of interesting characters as the story progresses at a break-neck pace. Charles Dickens, here in Cardiff to read extracts from his books. Gabriel Sneed, undertaker and kidnapper of Rose in the first 10 minutes. There's Gwyneth, Sneed's assistant with psychic powers. This is what Doctor Who does better than any other programme; creates believable and complex guest characters that we come to know. That they are all effectively realised in just 44 minutes is a miracle. 

And from then on the plot follows the route of identifying the mysterious gaseous aliens, the Gelth, and trying to understand their motives. At first they appear to be benign. All they want is to allow the few that have survived the Time War to inhabit the bodies of the dead so they can survive. The Doctor wants to help them and thus comes into conflict with Rose, who finds the whole notion of allowing the dead to be compromised in such a way completely abbhorent. Billie Piper puts in an excellent performance here. Her outrage in genuine. I'm finding myself being more and more engaged by Billie's acting. Never has a companion been this good.

Of course the Gelth are far from benign. Or maybe they just want to survive and will do anything to achieve that aim; things in Doctor Who are less than black and white, and the Gelth are prime examples of this. Are they evil just because they want to kill every human being on Earth so they can inhabit their bodies, being as it's the only way they can survive? You may think so, but things are a lot more complicated. The Gelth once had human bodies but they were destroyed in the Time War, the war in which Gallifrey was destroyed and possible the Nestene homeworld. Did the Doctor have something to do with this, we wonder. Is this new Doctor much darker than we have been lead to believe? 

In the end the Gelth are stopped from entering Earth through the portal they created through the body of the wonderful Gwyneth, who sacrifices herself in the process. Rose's friendship with Gwyneth was very moving and her reaction at her death and the notion that she will never be remembered for saving the world is touching. But do I have to be concerned for Rose's mental state though. If she gets this upset over every death she sees she'll be in the loony bin by the end of the season.

The location work is beyond excellent. You really feel that you're walking the streets of Cardiff, Christmas, 1869. The mood is there; the fashions are there. It's just perfect. The acting is top notch, especially from Simon Callow as Dickins. He was a very engaging character and his initial scepticism at the Gelth was highly amusing, even when confronted by several of the things flying around his head! Special mention must also go to Eve Myles as Gwyneth. She was a wonderful character and I was genuinely upset at her death. Mark Gatiss did a wonderful job giving her such depth in such a short time.

Then there's the brief mention of the Time War. It looks like a lot of planets have been affected by this. I know this is going somewhere and I'm eager to find out exactly what. I'm also a little saddened. If the Doctor is the last of his race then that means that Susan and Romana are dead, maybe even Leela too, if she was still on Gallifrey at the time. I doubt these characters will be mentioned in the future as it would be too much continuity to explain, but I'm still worried about this; what are the fates of these characters? 

So there we have it. Was it better than The Talons of Weng Chiang and Ghost Light? Definately. This is what Doctor Who would've been with a better budget; the best Doctor Who has ever been.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television